Economic Justice

The Leisure Agenda Details Policy for Overworked US Workers

Cooper, People’s Policy Project, Gravel Institute Issue Inaugural Policy Paper Detailing Overworked, Unsecure U.S. Labor Study

The People’s Policy Project in collaboration with the Gravel Institute issued their first policy paper this week, “The Leisure Agenda,” which details the longer work hours and lost productivity American workers face from being overworked and paid less than peers in other countries. 

The policy paper, written by Ryan Cooper, a national correspondent at TheWeek.com begins with this thesis: 

“Too many Americans have no vacation days, or very few, or they are not paid enough to enjoy them properly. Too many Americans work hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime, or are forced to choose between parenthood and employment. Too many Americans are spending their twilight years in front of a cash register because they can’t afford a real retirement.”

The paper compares worker productivity, wealth, and national data to highlight the disparity between American workers and their counterparts in peer nations.  

“As most nations have gotten richer, their average worker has worked fewer hours. But this is not true of the United States.” 

The data shows clearly that U.S. workers are also not earning loss protections through unemployment, leave for family issues and emergencies, or taking even the meager vacation benefits compared to their counterparts elsewhere.   

The paper does highlight a few common-sense policy measures to remedy the trend, along with some surprising proposals. Adding federal holidays evenly spaced throughout the year and recommending adoption of mandatory vacation policies for companies are touted as reasonable, cost-saving alternatives to the status quo. The surprising option outlined in the paper is adjustments to unemployment insurance. 

“To reform the current unemployment structure, the government should federalize the current state-run system and implement unemployment benefits that provide 52 weeks of coverage at a 60 percent income replacement level up to the national average wage. The requirement that unemployment must not be caused by the worker should also be removed.” 

Implementing this policy alone would have dramatic effects on working families, including union members, who may rely on unemployment benefits only to find themselves fighting for those benefits after first being denied by their employer. 

A reprint of the paper is here and published with permission. https://www.peoplespolicyproject.org/projects/the-leisure-agenda/ 

Economic Justice

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